On the 18th of June, 1955, we said “I do.” At just 18 and barely 20, my wife and I began our journey together that is now in its sixth decade. And, contrary to popular opinion, we’ve not been sheltered from life’s harsh winds.
Keeping a marriage together is hard work. Making it thrive is even harder. Thankfully, God has filled His Word with principles that breathe life into our unions. Cynthia and I have taken the time to find those principles, and we’ve applied them as often as possible.
Let’s look at a few in Genesis 2:24-25:
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
Those two short verses contain four essential principles that hold a marriage together. Every healthy marriage I’ve observed has all four, and every struggling couple I’ve worked with has had at least one missing or distorted. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve boiled each principle down to one word.
Severance. “a man leaves his father and mother” (2:24). Severance means man and woman switch their primary allegiance from their parents to each other. That doesn’t mean parents are to be ignored or disrespected!
Severance means that the new husband and wife no longer look to mother and father to have their needs met. They look to one another. They put each other first. Unless both deliberately “leave” their old families, their marriage can’t succeed.
Permanence. The Hebrew word for joined in verse 24 makes me think of woodworking glue. Such glue fuses two pieces of wood together so permanently that, when stressed, the wood splinters and snaps before breaking the bond.
Joined describes absolute devotion and loyalty, uncompromising affection and love. I’m talking about two, healthy, emotionally strong people who choose to stick together no matter what. Jesus took it a step further than Moses: “Let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Mark 10:9).
Unity. The word Moses used in verse 24 for “one” indicates a complex unity. Not a melting of two personalities to form one, but two individuals living and working in concert with common values and shared goals-partners. Unity is diversity brought into harmony. When this verse is misapplied, one spouse controls the other. The controlling one doesn’t give the other room to be himself or herself.
This is something that almost ruined our marriage! I spent the first 10 years with Cynthia expecting her to be the female Chuck. Finally, she called me on it, and we spent the next four years doing some of the hardest work we have ever done. The result? I discovered a woman within Cynthia whom I had never known, one who inspired respect in me and moved me to find new ways to affirm and honour her. Oh, what I had been missing! Once I learned to do that, we could truly be partners.
Intimacy. When the marriage garden is in full bloom, husband and wife enjoy an exclusive, privileged knowledge of each other. The man and woman in Genesis were naked and were not ashamed. They enjoyed a free-flowing intimacy uninhibited by self-interest. The sexual union must have been more pleasant and fulfilling than anything we can imagine.
Now, let me warn you that Satan is well aware of the necessity of these biblical principles. He will do everything to strip your marriage of them. In Terry’s article this month, he alludes to one deadly poison that is killing countless Christian marriages today, pornography. We’re tackling this issue because we believe there is healing and hope. Please read thoughtfully, and if necessary, reach out for help. Take measures to safeguard you and your family and take time to look carefully for other ways the Enemy may be dividing you and your forever valentine.
God is the master gardener who intends all marriages to thrive. But we must be willing to dig out the weeds. Do the work. Cynthia and I want for you what God has given us by His grace through our commitment-a thriving marriage garden.